THE ILLUSIONIST (2010) is an aging magician in the 1950s, bouncing from music hall to music hall to even less promising gigs (performing in a pub’s bar at one point) as rock-and-roll and movies continue to eat away at the audience. This was a Jacques Tati script he died without making, and like lots of Tati’s films it gets by with very little dialog. Unfortunately it gets by without any spark, just plodding along; disappointing, as its creator also made the wild Triplets of Belleville.
MOTHER AND CHILD (2009) is a movie composed of three interwoven plot threads. In one, Annette Benning as a hot-tempered, brittle nurse tormented by having given up her child for adoption decades earlier; can friendly nurse Jimmy Smits put a smile back on her face (one thing I do like about the film is that the men fill the emotional support role); Naomi Watts is the given-up child, now a cold fish of an attorney who winds up getting pregnant from an affair with Samuel L. Jackson; Kerry Washington is the third strand, a woman struggling through the adoption maze to find herself a baby. Very well acted and certainly dramatic, but Watts’ character is so emotionally detached she feels more like a Vulcan than a human. And the subtext for much of the movie is that adoption is a tragic thing that rips a mother and baby apart and haunts them forever. John Sayles’ Casa de Los Babie would make an obvious double bill. “Why did she say that to you? Why wouldn’t she say that to me?”
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